On the way back from our family holiday in Byron Bay Australia, we had an overnight stop in Guangzhou, China. This was our first visit to China and after reading so much about the growing economy of China and their takeover of the world, I was very curious to see it. We flew Southern China Airlines, which has excellent service, and in legroom, my most important factor, they scored extremely high, and they provided a free hotel for an overnight stay. The hotel was located about 20 minutes from the airport. Guangzhou is a huge city, about the size of Chicago, but I had never heard of it before moving to Asia. China is so big with a number of massive metropolises that most people in the world know little about. I know that it was one night in one city, but according to my initial impressions, China has a long way to go before being a world leader in culture and society, like the US, Europe, and Japan. The number of construction projects were impressive and it was a massive hotel, but the infrastructure of the roads and buildings, etc. reminded me more of Latin American and Eastern Europe than more developed countries.
We had a nice stay however, and found some high quality, cheap fruit in a market nearby. We were certainly stared at and I assumed not many American families with blond children go through there. The pollution was really bad, with a chemical odor in the air and a hazy morning. I know China will get it under control eventually, but they really need to take drastic measures to improve air quality. Many expats who teach there complain of this and it is a shame when children have to have an indoor recess because of pollution. I am intrigued to see more of the “middle kingdom” one of the oldest civilizations on earth to understand the country better.
I also spent a weekend in Bangkok, Thailand for a job fair. Most of the time was spent working, but I did get to go out for a couple of dinners and a walk to the night markets. Bangkok is a huge city set in the tropics and it reminded me of other tropical cities I have visited. The big impression it left on me was the influence of a colorful form of Buddhism. There were ornate shrines, big and small everywhere. This is much different than the more sedate form of Buddhism in Japan. I was also surprised to see so many transgender men/women. It is totally acceptable in Thailand, in part due to the tolerance of Buddhism. I also noticed the king is venerated with photos and books. I didn’t know it was a kingdom. The food as always, was delicious and I hope to come back to visit this tourist mecca.